Speaker of the House of Assembly, Jullian Willock has announced that he has been communicating with the new governor, John Rankin on the issue of assenting to bills passed by elected leaders.
At the March 4 sitting of the House of Assembly, Willock said he will have more information on his communication with the Governor in the coming weeks.
But he reminded elected leaders that the constitution gives them the right to draft and pass laws for the territory, adding that this right should not be prevented by one individual.
“If one person can consistently prevent that from happening, then we must ask the question: ‘do we still have a democratic form of government in the Virgin Islands?'” Willock said.
Immediate-past Governor Augustus Jaspert ended his term without assenting to two bills on which the government was depending to revive the COVID hit economy.
These bills are the Virgin Islands Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020, and the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) (Amendment) Act, 2020. The lack of assent to these bills has angered elected leaders who say the move showed a lack of respect for the House of Assembly.
Willock, in his role as House Speaker, has been vocal on the matter of assent. And at Governor Rankin’s swearing-in ceremony, he warned the new UK official that his assent is a “mere formality”.
Willock also added that he expects the Cabinet to be given reasons whenever assent won’t be granted.
In the meantime, some sections of the public have questioned whether it is appropriate for Willock – in his role as House Speaker – to speak so openly about issues that concern the Governor and elected leaders.
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